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MSNBC's Cenk Uygur: 'I Plan to Beat Fox News in the Ratings and Make Them Fear Me'

AlterNet speaks with Cenk Uygur, the newest addition to MSNBC's nightly lineup.

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DH: You've been filling in for a while now -- what is it like to jump from 'The Young Turks' to MSNBC?

CU: Of course, television is more formatted and scripted than "The Young Turks." TYT is looser and more irreverent. But television gives you an opportunity to really put together a great product and visually make your case to the audience better.

DH: Who have you had for guests? And who has been especially interesting, compelling, surprising, etc.? Do you bring on contrary opinions?

CU: We have had great guests in each of the shows I have hosted. I talked to David Axelrod on "Countdown." I talked to Julian Assange on "The Dylan Ratigan Show." My favorite guests are usually Republicans. Their position is almost never consistent or fact-based. It's fairly easy to catch a Republican legislator making an indefensible argument.

Of all of the guests, I was probably most proud of the Assange interview because we introduced an element that was not part of the national conversation before -- we were the first, on television at least, to focus on protecting him as a journalist and brought up the idea that perhaps the rest of the press should rally to his cause.

DH: How did you make the Assange interview happen? Was there a lot of rigmarole? What is your impression of him, and the whole situation with Manning etc.?

CU: I would love to take credit for setting up the Assange interview, but I can't. It was all Jesse Rodriguez, the excellent booker for "The Dylan Ratigan Show." He worked for over a year on that relationship and landed him at just the right time after he was first released from prison in Great Britain.

My impression of Assange is that he is a modern-day hero. He is bringing the transparency to our government that some politicians promised and didn't come close to delivering on. This is exactly what the press is supposed to do. The Wikileaks revelations about Tunisia at least partly led to a wave of democratic movements throughout the Middle East. You cannot overstate his importance to journalism today.

During our interview, he highlighted the deplorable conditions that the U.S. government is keeping Private Manning in. They have him in isolation for 23 hours a day and treat him as harshly as our worst, most hardened criminals -- and he hasn't been convicted of anything yet.

DH: What is your overarching philosophy of your show, and your sense of 'progressive' TV overall? How are you different than the other on-air people on MSNBC?

CU: My aim is to do an informative and entertaining show. We want to affect the national conversation. First, you have to get people to watch and then you if you're lucky and good enough you might be able to inform them about things that are important.

There are so many things that the mainstream media gets wrong that it's an awesome opportunity to be able to correct them from the inside. I hope I can be a progressive voice that presents our perspective without a filter -- and does it with strength.

Every show on MSNBC has its own advantages. My perspective that is a little different than the others is that I think our system is fundamentally broken. I think our politician are bought by the highest bidder and that until we clean up our election system then we cannot make progress on any of the issues. That's what drives me -- we must restore our democracy.

 
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